In the entirety of the history of cinema, many legendary filmmakers have paved the way for future storytellers to tread on. They broke the mould and experimented with unorthodox techniques to tell their story. They often challenged the status quo and brought about revolutions in cinema. They are unique films that dared to pioneer certain aspects of films. Here is the list of most inventive, imaginative and creative movies. You can watch some of these movies filled with creative ideas on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
12. Hardcore Henry (2015)
Ever since I read the first book that was written in the first person, I wondered if that could be translated to movies. While films capture a singular perspective usually following a single character, they were never from the protagonist’s perspective. The films were tainted by the director and cinematographers opinions on camera placement to evoke emotions through close-ups or low-angle or high-angle shots. One film made a mark in 2015, though for literally stepping into the protagonist’s shoes. After the success of a YouTube video titled ‘Bad Motherfucker’ made completely in POV, the director made this feature length film. It was partially produced through crowd-funding which is quite a landmark in itself. While the story is just a sci-fi action flick, what is most important is that the movie is completely shot in the first person perspective and is adamant on sticking to its film device making it a unique experience. With the advent of VR, we may see more movies of this type very soon.
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11. Buried (2010)
There have been some movies that had a single character and there have been some that take place in real time or in a single location. But what ‘Buried’ manages to do is bring all of that and more into an interesting movie. The film features an American truck driver being waking up buried alive in the middle of the desert in war-torn Iraq. While films like ‘Locke’ also primarily have a single actor, their sense of peril is far less than in ‘Buried’. The entire movie takes place in the extremely claustrophobic interior of the wooden coffin with a phone and lighter. The story talks about the reality of war and how it affect people and about the will to survive but the movie rests on the shoulders of the only actor we see in the flesh; Ryan Reynolds. In one of his best performances, he carries the film through his frustration and expressions. The shot of darkness outside the coffin lit by the lighter is hauntingly beautiful. The movie treads a very risky line of having a single actor doing most of the hard work but it pays off.
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10. Adaptation (2002)
So the story of ‘Adaptation’ goes like this; it was 1999 and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman had been signed to make a cinematic adaptation of ‘The Orchid Thief’, but he was frustrated with a writer’s block as he didn’t know what to think of the book. Finally, in a stroke of genius, he instead wrote a screenplay based on his own experiences of adapting the book, topping actual facts with a dollop of fiction. Though the film is billed as an adaptation of “The Orchid Thief”, its primary narrative focus is Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the book into a film, while dramatising the events of the book in parallel. This ingenius self-referential and metacinematic plotline alone would be enough to grant a film a spot here, but Director Spike Jonze’s original and funny rendition as well great performances all around make it soar right at the penultimate position.
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9. Birdman (2014)
Bursting and bristling with raw energy, ‘Birdman’ plays around with the art of movie-making and gives a new dimension to it. It surprises, challenges, and dazzles; sometimes all at once. It is zany, exhilarating, and an experience that you, in all likelihood, would have never had at cinemas. It is not that the one single take hadn’t been attempted before, but ‘Birdman’ — with Emmanuel Lubezki at the helm of camera — takes it to another level and pulls it off with amazing results.
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8. Russian Ark (2002)
Many great directors have used the famous long-take (aka Oner) to great effect in ‘Touch of Evil’, ‘Rope’, ‘Atonement’, ‘Children of Men’ and so many more. What ‘Russian Ark’ achieves though is an almost unbelievable feat. It condenses centuries’ worth of the country’s history transcending time in one single take shot in real time. The camera follows a character credited as “The Stranger” as he moves across the Hermitage Museum as he encounters various historical figures. Nearly an hour and a half long, this is a testament to the will of filmmakers to realize even the toughest of things for the sake of art and in this case, history. Owing to the great production design and performances along with brilliant blocking, ‘Russian Ark’ is one of the most beautiful movies ever made with every frame being as beautiful as a painting.
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7. Blair Witch Project (1999)
Not many movies can say that they made an entire genre of filmmaking. ‘Blair Witch Project’ though, did exactly that. All horror movies before it were usually supernatural creatures chasing people and most of the fright came from jump-scares rather than storytelling. With the new advancement in technology of the handheld camera for regular people, this movie made the genre of ‘found-footage’ films. It used brilliant effects at a very small budget and brought about terror by not showing more than it did. This was a way to make a film on a very small budget but it paid off becoming one of the best horror movies of all time. It also revived horror flicks and paved the way for movies like ‘Paranormal Activity’ that entirely thrived on found-footage tropes. In the two decades, many movies have been inspired by this one even lending a little bit to the shaky-cam technique used in big budget action movies.
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6. Boyhood (2014)
Richard Linklater’s entire filmography consists of very creative and unorthodox scripts from the walk-and-talk ‘Before Trilogy’ to the unique magic of ‘Dazed and Confused’ and the psychedelic commentary on life that is ‘Waking Life’. But the one he is most appreciated for was the masterpiece that is ‘Boyhood’. A frankly simple but deceivingly crazy idea to shoot actors as they grew in real life is the most out-of-the-box idea. At first glance, many members of the audience dismissed it as a gimmick but when one sees the movie, they can appreciate its mastery over depiction of reality. The device used blends into the story and the spirit of the movie. The fact that he couldn’t reshoot any part of the film if required makes it a scary task but it is executed to perfection. While it is a novel concept that will unknowingly influence films for decades, the difficulty to actualize the concept will make sure that not a lot will try to follow in its footsteps keeping ‘Boyhood’ in a league of its own.
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5. The 400 Blows (1959)
While there is no single movie that started the French New Wave of Cinema, ‘The 400 Blows’ is a guess as good as any. It is the story of a 14 year old boy struggling with a tough home and getting into all sorts of trouble at school. All of this is shown in a very new way using jump cuts and other techniques to make the viewers realise that they are watching a film. French New Wave or Nouvelle Vague was the movement pioneered by great French filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. They gave the movies identity as a form of art made using a camera. They accepted the presence of a camera and broke the rules that old Hollywood had set. Their works of art made possible the auteur cinema of Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Spielberg and most of the legendary filmmakers after the 60’s.
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4. Memento (2000)
Widely considered the crowning gem of Nolan’s career, ‘Memento’ is a masterpiece. Quite a few movies had experimented with moving back and forth in time across the movie but the Nolan brothers created a script that essentially played out in reverse. The brilliance of the movie doesn’t lie in that though. The unreliable narration of the movie flips the basic formula of films on its head. Most movies are the journeys of their respective characters as they change or are changed because of circumstances that take place. But owing to the protagonist’s memory loss, there isn’t any scope for him to change as he resets to the same state every 15 minutes. And this is a deliberate move. Since our character cannot change, our perception of the character changes radically from the start to the end. Every rewind in time, explains to us (but not to the character) what happened before. It is a deeply layered film exploiting our expectations to drastically change our perspective throughout the film.
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3. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
There have been satirical pieces in all art-forms from ‘1984’ to ‘Her’ but ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is the best example of art taking on reality. It follows the events after a high-ranking military officer madly launches a nuclear attack. Stanley Kubrick makes it a textbook example of dark humour in a setting as serious as can be. But the ludicrous characters and the absurdity of the entire situation make it a very interesting movie to experience. It may be especially fitting with the current political scenario around the world. It can also be understood as a critique of how a few people can have the power to change the course of mankind and how their subordinates who actually carry out the orders have no say in the matter just as the public has seemingly no say on the international matters that affect them daily. Every time you watch the movie, you will probably learn something new. And you will also appreciate the genius of Kubrick.
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2. Toy Story (1995)
Animation has been a cornerstone of cinema for decades. But they were always very time-consuming to make and it took a lot of artists to render every frame. One invention brought the animated film industry into the forefront of movies and a staple in popular culture. Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ was the first feature length movie to be made entirely using computer technology. With a stellar cast, endearing characters and a simple yet effective story, it made a huge splash in the sea of movies. The studio founded by a visionary; Steve Jobs and helmed by John Lasseter made sure that the animation was on point. Every frame was made to look realistic but animated enough to stay out of the Uncanny-Valley. The balance of art and technology meshed together to bring us great animated movies that transcended age and gender. It also made a huge impact in CGI technology to be used in live-action films. The only downside was gradual drying out of hand-made animation of old times but it solidified animation as a staple of films and it even led to the separate category for animated films in the Oscars.
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1. Citizen Kane (1941)
This is a movie that is a regular in all lists of best movies of all time. This has led to some modern audience members calling it an overrated and hyped movie. But when they see the movie with a keen eye they see the greatness of the film. Orson Welles studied films for years and borrowed, expanded on and invented ways to tell a story through film. The story itself is one of the disconnect that comes with success and the importance of innocence. But the movie shaped films for centuries to come. It established rules of framing and drawing attention that have since become a staple of cinema. He used size and motion in deep focus to draw attention while showing a wide picture letting the viewer pick and chose what they want to see. This movie in particular has inspired many filmmakers to use the art-form to tell stories. It is an understatement to say that it is the most influential movie. It is a classic for being creative, inventive, artistic and innovative. It is truly one of the best movies ever made.
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